Amy's Health Journey

Posted by Amy Hopeman on Jul 27th 2017

I grew up in Hawaii eating mangoes from my Japanese grandparents’ farm, fish my dad and brother caught in clear Pacific water and my German grandmother’s pork chops and mashed potatoes. Hawaii is a culinary melting pot and it’s easy to eat Korean kimchi, Chinese noodles, Filipino stew, Japanese rice balls and Portuguese bread in one day. I rarely thought about how food affected my health because I could eat whatever I wanted, be competitive in high school sports and still be fit. Late night pizzas and cold New England winters changed all of that once I got to college. I tried to balance being so far from home with the challenges of college life and my health suffered. I stumbled upon “Diet For A New America” and reading it changed my life. Give up Spam musubi, huli huli chicken and kalbi beef? What? My family balked.

I first embraced lacto-ovo vegetarianism, then in my early 20’s I switched to a vegan diet with no processed food, then I slowly incorporated fish. In grad school I transitioned back to a lacto-ovo, Food Pyramid inspired lifestyle fueled by farmers’ markets, foreign travel and artisanal everything. In 2009, I discovered macrobiotics and it turned my world upside down once again. Meals based on whole grains, vegetables, plant based protein, soups and fermented foods were delicious and familiar. I knew the Japanese ingredients like umeboshi plums, miso and tamari from my childhood. I experienced renewed energy and began to understand how food affected my mood, stress levels, energy, gut health and mental clarity. I holed up in the kitchen and cooked. And cooked. And cooked some more.

With the help of macrobiotics, I had a very easy pregnancy. Eating miso soup, nishime and brown rice after I gave birth to my daughter was so nourishing and my body responded positively. For the first few years of her life, I was able to cook the majority of our meals from scratch. All vegan, lots of probiotic food like miso and plenty of deep green vegetables filled our plates. Around her third birthday, things started to change.

The more I learned, the less I felt I understood macrobiotics. I focused on the mechanics, created long, detailed menu plans and I lost the healing spirit it was intended to inspire. Once my daughter started going to ice cream and pizza filled birthday parties, our family transitioned back to a less-than-healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

I told myself macrobiotics was too time consuming, too rigid, too hard. I was a working mother of a small child, guilt invaded our kitchen and it was not an inspiring place to be. I knew we could (should) be eating better but I wasn’t willing to do the work to make it happen. We took cooking short cuts and our fridge and freezer were full of processed vegan/vegetarian food (faux cheese!). To those around us, our family was ‘healthy’. I knew better. The façade was wearing thin and the gig was up.

I was tired. It was hard to get out of bed and I was dealing with decades of chronic pain and regular headaches. I would leave work with excruciating headaches and it was crushing to tell my daughter I couldn’t do something with her because I was hurting too much. It was time to take back control of my health. I found a new primary care doctor that shed some light on things that were ailing me, namely vitamin/mineral deficiencies and hormone imbalances. Deep down I thought I was eating better than most so how could I be deficient in anything? I didn’t believe in taking supplements let alone hormones, but my desire to feel better prevailed. I embraced taking supplements and medication, I started making better food choices and I got back to macrobiotic inspired cooking because I experienced its health benefits before.

My pain is a little better, my labs are slowly coming into balance and now that I pay closer attention to what I eat, I have fewer headaches. I’m still not pain free or completely free of the pressure to feed myself and my family ‘right’. To support my healing, I have a super team of health professionals who monitor my health on a variety of levels. I have my bloodwork checked regularly, I attend cooking classes and lectures with Dr. Sommer White, I do monthly check ins with my macrobiotic counselor, Warren Kramer, and do body work with Virginia Harper. I’ve learned that healing and living life in neon requires more than food. It’s about setting myself up for success. It’s about surrounding myself with people who nourish me and support my personal and professional work. The importance of community cannot be underestimated. Joy is sharing meals with friends and family, mindfulness is chewing with intention and having the patience to listen to my body. Exchanging recipes, trying new restaurants together, supporting local farmers and businesses we believe in, voting with my dollar and finding ways to heal have sparked an intense passion for wellness and peace.

I’ve been on a path to health and freedom for over half my life. From the pursuit of physical fitness and competing in high school athletics to now, pursuing mental clarity and shedding chronic pain, has been my passion and now my profession. Freedom to me means having the knowledge and ability to live with joy and appreciation without judgement.

I’m finally a willing participant in my own health and have shattered what I thought healthy means. We’re all struggling with something. Looking through a lens of compassion has helped me be kinder to myself and to others.

How am I feeling? I make a conscious decision every day to feel great. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, I ask for help. When I do, I try to buoy someone who isn’t. A fulfilling life is nurtured by a constant exchange of love and kindness. HealthGoods Market was born out of this desire to share life’s stories and to help others live their life in neon.